A time-block planner template for Roam

October 28, 2020

productivity

What is time-block planning?

Time-block planning is the process of dividing up your day into blocks of time, and then allocating particular tasks to those blocks of time.

It's not a new concept, but it has been recently popularised by Cal Newport as part of his philosophy of 'deep work'.

It's also important to note that time-block planning is not a replacement for a calendar or for long-term planning. It's a daily approach to enable you to get the most out of your time, which works in tandem with other tools like your calendar.

Integration with Roam Research

I'm a recent convert to Roam. I put it off for a long time, like many other people, but since giving in and signing up I am now regretting missing those months without Roam as my knowledge base (again, like many others it seems).

While Roam has a lot of great features built in, I wanted a way to easily implement time-block planning within it. Anyone who uses Roam knows that the Daily Notes section is central to the Roam workflow, so that's where I wanted my time-block planner to live. It's useful to have the planner easily accessible at all times so that there is minimal interruption when you want to jot an idea down to revisit later.

I think this will be most useful for those people who spend a lot of their time in Roam as it will reduce context switching. It also allows for integrating the many features offered by Roam, e.g. bi-directional linking, pomodoro timers, todos etc., right into the time-block planner.

Instructions for using the time-block planner

It's easiest to use this template in conjunction with some form of text expander. I personally use Alfred on my mac, where I have created a snippet for the planner template. When in Roam (oops...), all I need to do is type !time and it automatically expands and inputs the full template.

To input an activity, create a new indented bullet point below the time at which you want to start the activity. To this activity you can attach any number of things. For example, are you finishing an article you started yesterday? You can link directly to the article with [[ ]], set a timer for however long you want it to take, and add a checkbox for when it's complete.

Repeat this step for all the activities you'd like to schedule throughout the day.

The tasks and ideas columns are for jotting down things which come into your head whilst you are doing your deep work. You can write it down in this column to revisit later, so as not to interrupt your flow.

The edit column is where you can redesign your day should you need to. Unexpected things come up, and this can result in delays. When you first start time-blocking it's also difficult to estimate how long a task will take. By actually altering and re-designing your schedule it allows you to keep track of which tasks are taking more or less time than expected.

Daily metrics are where you measure certain behaviours which you want to track on a daily basis. These can take any form. Maybe a simple checkbox to mark whether you achieved what you wanted.

The Template

I've included two templates below. The template itself is heavily inspired by Cal Newport's own physical time-block planner which he has just announced. If you enjoy the concept of this, then it could well prove a good purchase for you.

The first template is a blank one which you can edit as you wish, and the second is an example of a complete plan.

Simply copy and paste into your text expander of choice and you're good to go.

Blank Template

- {{[[table]]}}
    - Daily Metrics
        - ____
            - ____
                -
                    - {{[[TODO]]}} Shutdown sequence
    - Tasks
        - Ideas
            - Time
                - Activity
                    - Edit
    - ____
        - ____
            - 9
    - ____
        - ____
            - 9.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 10
    - ____
        - ____
            - 10.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 11
    - ____
        - ____
            - 11.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 12
    - ____
        - ____
            - 12.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 13
    - ____
        - ____
            - 13.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 14
    - ____
        - ____
            - 14.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 15
    - ____
        - ____
            - 15.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 16
    - ____
        - ____
            - 16.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 17

Complete Template

- {{[[table]]}}
    - Daily Metrics
        - {{[[TODO]]}} __Only check email at specified time__
            - {{[[TODO]]}} __At least 6 hours deep work__
                -
                    - {{[[TODO]]}} Shutdown sequence
    - Tasks
        - Ideas
            - Time
                - Activity
                    - Edit
    - __scaffold outline__
        - ____
            - 9
                - {{[[TODO]]}} Work on time-block planning article
    - __write draft__
        - ____
            - 9.30
                -
    - ____
        - __See notion time-block planner__
            - 10
                -
    - ____
        - ____
            - 10.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 11
    - ____
        - ____
            - 11.30
    - __schedule call with Stefan__
        - __ask for feedback on presentation__
            - 12
                - {{[[TODO]]}} Check email and IM {{[[POMO]]: 25}}
    - ____
        - ____
            - 12.30
                - Lunch
    - ____
        - ____
            - 13
                - {{[[TODO]]}} Finalise notes for presentation on [[effective altruism]]
    - ____
        - ____
            - 13.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 14
    - ____
        - ____
            - 14.30
    - ____
        - ____
            - 15
    - ____
        - ____
            - 15.30
    - __create 10 new cards__
        - ____
            - 16
                - {{[[TODO]]}} [[Anki]] session {{[[POMO]]: 25}}
    - ____
        - ____
            - 16.30
                - Begin shutdown sequence
    - ____
        - ____
            - 17

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